I’m sick of being told I was ‘too posh to push’
MY youngest daughter and I share a birthday.
"Oh, how lovely," says everyone upon hearing of this improbability. "What a coincidence."
Except it wasn't. My daughter was delivered on my birthday because it was a Monday and my obstetrician only performed elective caesareans on Mondays. We could've waited until the following Monday but I'd gone into labour early with my first child and it was agreed we didn't want to take the risk.
I rarely tell this story and not because the bald facts rather take the shine off what might have been a sweet story of serendipity. Rather, I don't disclose the details because until now I feared being targeted by the birth Nazis who position caesareans - especially the elective ones - as the horrific choice of evil mothers who are too selfish/entitled/vain/weak to struggle through a natural delivery.
But I'm fed up of being deemed "too posh to push". The fact is I was "too smart to push".
When an obstetrician with a medical degree and several years' experience told me 20 hours into labour with my eldest daughter that her heart rate was dropping and he urgently needed to get her out via a C-section, I did what was best for the both of us. Three years later when another obstetrician examined me, read my notes and concluded I had a 50 per cent chance of having a successful natural birth with my second child, I decided the odds weren't high enough and opted for another caesarean.
For years I've listened to the prejudice and hysteria and I've had enough. Last weekend it was reported that the proportion of babies born globally via caesarean section had doubled to 21 per cent since 2000 prompting calls for a reversal of this "alarming" trend. Alarming? Seriously? Alarming is America's pathetic lack of gun laws. It's genital mutilation in Somalia. Women undergoing lifesaving surgery is not "alarming".
I'm hesitant to use a personal story to make a universal point but with 33 per cent of the 300,000 babies born in Australia in 2014 delivered via caesarean, we apparent push deniers are far from a niche group. And yet we're treated as heinous cheats, arrogantly bypassing nature's most ancient practices while not giving a damn if our babies emerge mutated, intellectually compromised and failures of life's first test, namely pushing their cauliflower-proportioned heads through a gap the size of a plughole.
Dig deeper and you'll find the birth brigade lamenting our propensity to break wind more often, our crippled self-esteem and our foolishness in foregoing the exhilarating sensation of birth. The late childbirth activist Sheila Kitzinger once claimed giving birth was an intensely sexual feeling - "even more compelling than orgasm" - so one can only presume the natural birth cohort are keeping this secret to themselves or poor Sheila had some pretty lame lovers.
Whatever, with my children now 18 and 14 and neither apparently affected by their entry method, I'm speaking out on behalf of women who will go on to have caesareans and those still carrying around the pointless shame.
One of my dearest friends still tells her natural birthing buddies her elective caesarean aged 42 was an emergency procedure, while actor Kate Winslet only came clean about having a caesarean with her first born after her second child was born naturally.
"Mia was an emergency C-section. I just said that I had a natural birth because I was so completely traumatised by the fact that I hadn't given birth. I felt like a complete failure." (Honestly, love, I think you've got more to worry about with that hokey flying scene with Leo on the bow of Titanic).
The fact is the growing caesarean rate is due, in part, to the rising age of women giving birth, obesity and the increased size of newborns. Yet instead of celebrating the medical triumph of caesareans and the declining rates of infant and maternal mortality, a mother's method of birth, like breastfeeding, is now wielded as a barometer of how "motherly" she might actually be. "Oh, but you missed out on the birth experience," one of the smugs said to a friend of mine. "That's OK," retorted my bold-as-brass mate, "I've climbed Kilimanjaro and ski black runs so I'm all good for experiences."
The real shame is that this fetishisation of natural childbirth has driven a wedge between women when they need each other most. Do you think the women of the Republic of Congo started one-upping each other when the UN Population Fund supported the introduction of free caesareans to try to combat the death of one in 28 women during child birth? Perhaps the Duchess of Sussex will have a caesarean delivery and, in turn, extinguish any sense of shame.
The truth is there are pros and cons to both delivery methods. I couldn't drive a car for a few weeks after giving birth but I never had to relieve vaginal swelling by sticking a popsicle in my knickers. Sure, my children may have performed less well in their Year 3 NAPLAN tests than natural-born children (yes, there was actually a study) but I can still do box jumps at the gym without wetting myself.
My advice: hug your kids any time you feel even a hint of parenting shame whether they popped out through the sunroof or not.